One in five adolescents has some hearing loss, a rate that has increased substantially from a decade ago, when the rate was only one in seven.
How do the numbers break down? The percentage with at least slight hearing loss increased by 30 percent, to 19.5 percent from 14.9 percent in the earlier survey. This hearing loss is slight enough that they may not even notice. But the number with greater hearing loss has also increased, from 1 in 30 teens in the earlier study to 1 in 20 teenagers in the latest survey. And that’s disturbing.
Hearing Loss Jumps From A Decade Ago
This study, published two weeks ago in The Journal of the American Medical Association, tested about 1,771 young people aged 12 to 19 who took part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of 2005-6, and compared the amount of hearing loss with that of youngsters who participated in the survey in 1988-94.
Upsurge In Use Of iPods
The researchers did not try to come to conclusions about this sharp increase, but those of us who work with teenagers have seen more and more of them sporting iPods and other digital music players over the past few years, so the news of a surge in teen hearing loss is hardly surprising. It is, however, alarming.
Other studies, from the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), have found that exposure to loud sounds can lead to noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). After testing the hearing of over 5,000 children aged 6 to 19, they found that 12.5 percent had evidence of NIHL. That equals 5.2 million children in the United States with a NIHL in one or both ears.
Teens Don’t Know How Loud Their Music Is
If you’ve ever tried talking to someone who is listening to loud music on an iPod, you know how frustrating it can be. And the scary part is that these teens don’t realize how noisy their music is. According to the paper’s lead author, Dr. Josef Shargorodsky of Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, youngsters often say they are not being exposed to loud noise because they are simply unaware they are listening to music at dangerously high levels.
Hearing Aids For All?
Hearing loss is a big deal because the damage is permanent. What to do? Doctors advise parents that there is a maximum volume lock on their child’s iPod, a safeguard if a child refuses to turn down the volume. And the NIDCD urges everyone to know that noises above 75 decibels can cause damage, and to protect children who are too young to protect themselves.
And that includes teenagers. Tell them to turn it down, or envisage a future where they will need a permanent hearing aid.
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